The Washington D.C. City Council has unanimously approved with cannabis possession charges that have since been decriminalized or legalized to have the offenses sealed from their record. The proposal would apply to anyone who received a charge for possessing up to an ounce of cannabis prior to July, when a decriminalization bill approved by the Council, and signed by the mayor, took effect.
“People who have had these issues in the past, it never leaves them,” says Councilmember David Grosso, who introduced the bill. “They have to check the box [indicating a prior conviction]. They can’t get a job. They can’t get public housing. They can’t get financial aid” for college.
Under Bill 20-467, those who were convicted of cannabis possession of up to an ounce prior to the law change in July would be able to have the charge sealed from their record, meaning it won’t be viewable on criminal background checks.
“This bill builds on the marijuana decriminalization law the Council passed earlier this year,” says Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “For the thousands of D.C. residents who are suffering the life-altering consequences of having a marijuana possession charge on their record, this legislation should help provide relief.”
This November, D.C. voters will be voting on Initiative 71, which would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, and the private cultivation of up to six plants. If Bill 20-467 and Initiative 71 are both approved, it would allow those convicting of offenses that are legalized under Initiative 71 prior to its approval would be authorized to have those charges sealed from their record.
The proposal is expected to receive one final Council vote later this month, which would send it to Mayor Vincent Gray for consideration.
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